Kean Commanded Vietnam Embassy Evacuation
One of the last men on the roof of the United States Embassy at the Fall of Saigon has died on Cape Cod, according to his family.
Lt. Col. Jim Kean was in command of the embassy evacuation on April 30, 1975. The U.S. signed a peace agreement ending its involvement in the Divisive Southeast Asian conflict in January 1973. By 1975, with North Vietnamese forces moving in, Americans fled the South Vietnamese capital as throngs of Vietnamese civilians scrambled to escape with them.
Helicopters from U.S. carriers in the South China Sea landed at Saigon's airport and on roofs at the United States Embassy compound to pick up most of the approximately 1,000 remaining Americans and several thousand Vietnamese trying to flee the country in advance of approaching North Vietnamese forces, according to New York Times archives.
Kean was among the last Marines to leave the rooftop of the American Embassy, thus ending the U.S. involvement in Vietnam during the Vietnam War era. The final stage of the evacuation lasted 19 hours and four Marines died in the effort, two when their helicopter crashed into the South China Sea. The last Americans out of Saigon were 11 of the 800 Marines who had guided the evacuation effort. They fired a red smoke grenade to guide the last helicopter in, then scrambled aboard as hundreds of other desperate refugees swarmed the rooftops hoping to be picked up.
Kean's family said he died suddenly while he was having his daily swim. The exact cause of death has not been determined. He lived in the Cummaquit neighborhood of Barnstable.
A service will be held on Monday, May 12 at the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, Mass., his daughter, Pamela Kean, said.
Jim Kean was 66 years old.